Galway’s Olympic track star was back in his home town of Athenry last Saturday evening after his successful campaign in Beijing a few weeks earlier.
The town provided Hession with an “official homecoming” celebration, which started at his home in Park and proceeded into the Square in the centre of Athenry where he was met by more than 500 well-wishers.
Among the dignitaries were local parish priest, Canon Tony King, his near neighbour and current Mayor of County Galway, Peter Feeney, local TD, Noel Treacy, who made a rousing tribute to both Hession and the county’s other Olympian Olive Loughnane, and Iain Shaw, secretary of Athenry AC,.
Hessin, who thanked everyone for their support through the years, made special mention of his early coaches Tom Page, Mary Kelly, and Dermot McNamara, as particular influences. He also thanked his main commercial sponsors, Coffey Construction and Tom Hogan Motors, for their financial support in recent years.
Hession has raced twice since his Olympics exploits, beating a number of finalists from the 200M in the process. His three race series at the Olympics captured the hearts and minds of the whole of Ireland where he finished 10th overall out of 16 starters, just missing out on the final by one place.
A host of runners from the Athenry Athletic Club competed in the Woodies DIY National Half-Marathon Championships of Ireland, hosted by Waterford AC.
The club’s senior men's team had been depleted by injury and other enforced absences, but six athletes, led by international runner Paul McNamara, and joined by John O'Connor, Conor Dolan, Robert Staunton, Brian Bruton, and Gary Doherty, lined up at the start.
Cillian O'Leary of Raheny Shamrocks was first man home in 67:22 and Paul McNamara came home in seventh place in a respectable 70:20. Of the remaining senior men, Rob Staunton and Conor Dolan had particularly strong races.
The club also fielded five strong competitors in the women’s event, Ann Carter, Maeve Noone, Jane-Ann Healy, Valerie Glavin, and Elaine Walsh. Carter, also finished seventh, clocking a little over 85 minutes - good enough to win her category (W40 ) by almost three clear minutes. Next home was Elaine Walsh and not long afterwards the fast improving Valerie Glavin.
Martin McEvilly of Galway City Harriers was the star performer in the masters categories, capturing the national title for M60s with a superb run from start to finish, while Athenry’s PeadarNugent picked up a bronze medal in his masters M65 category.